Fine Dining & Details: The Basics of a Rehearsal Dinner

rehearsal dinner

Eric Kelley

Don’t you ever get so tied up in something that you totally forgot that there was something else to do?!? [A: Yes, and I still hate my biology teacher for giving me a “mini-assignment” that ended up becoming an all-nighter.] Well, rehearsal dinners are that “something else” to weddings. They just kind of sneak up on you out of nowhere, and then you’re forced to read ANOTHER post on rehearsal dinner etiquette (like this one, hah).

Well, fear not! Because this guide is going to answer all your questions about rehearsal dinners in one go and save you some stress from actually planning it. So let’s get started!

rehearsal dinner

Jessica Burke Photography

Q: What is the rehearsal dinner?

The rehearsal dinner is traditionally a dinner that takes place after the wedding rehearsal. It’s a great way to unwind and relax after a hard day of hammering out wedding logistics as well as a time to spend with your loved ones.

Q: Who’s in charge of planning it?

Traditionally, the groom’s family pays for the rehearsal dinner as the bride’s family foots the bill for the wedding. However, times are a changin’, so planning should go to whoever wants to do it really. There is a lot of overlap between the responsibilities of the bride’s family and the groom’s family, so it might be useful to have a sit-together or phone conference to delegate tasks amongst both families. Typically though, whoever pays for the dinner has the last word on how the dinner is planned.

Q: Where/when should I hold it?

Honestly, you can have your rehearsal dinner anywhere you want! People like to host it at their favorite restaurants, and I mean, why wouldn’t you? A favorite restaurant usually always means a guarantee of great food. You can have alternative rehearsal dinners at your home where you prepare and cook the food with your companions or have a dinner catered to you! The possibilities are limitless and only limited by budget.

Try to reserve your rehearsal dinner venue as early as three to six months in advance to get planning out of the way. There is no hard and fast rule about when the rehearsal dinner should be held, although it has traditionally been the night before the day of the wedding itself. However, if you plan to imbibe more than a few drinks that evening, you might want to push rehearsal and rehearsal dinner a day earlier. That way, you can really let loose, nurse your hangover the next day, and get ready wide-eyed and bushy-tailed for your wedding!

rehearsal dinner

La Luna Designs

Q: Who should I invite?

Anyone who is your immediate family member, the officiant and his/her spouse, your wedding party and their significant others, and your closest friends. If you want to throw a bigger shebang, you can also invite guests who are already in town! If you want to spend a little quality time with your guests but can’t seem to squeeze them in for the rehearsal dinner, you and your fiancee can have an after-hours meet-up at the local bar. That way, everyone gets to hang out with you and be happy (and pleasantly buzzed) at the same time!

Q: Do I need to send out any physical invitations?

Once again, it’s up to you and the overall formality of the rehearsal dinner. If you’re planning to completely swank it out, formal rehearsal dinner invitations could be a nice touch to the overall atmosphere of it all. However, a hand-written note or card will suffice, as does word-of-mouth and casual phone conversations. The pros of physical invitations are that they easily emphasize the formality of the event and are easy to refer to for details, but they can add a couple of 20s to your budget as well. At the very least, you should call who you plan to invite and have details of

Q: When should I send out invites?

A month or two ahead of time should be good! Send your rehearsal dinner invites separately from your wedding invitations in case one or the other gets lost in the mail.

rehearsal dinner

K. Thompson Photography

Q: What kind of dinner should it be?

Well it depends… what do you want to get out of it? The rehearsal dinner is nowhere as formal as the wedding dinner. If you want a casual, intimate evening, consider going with a backyard BBQ with drinks at the bar afterwards. Or maybe you want to have a catered picnic by the ocean and do epic bonfire toasts to really make it a night to remember! You could go for an elegant dinner at the restaurant you’ve always wanted to try out and be foodies with all your companions.

Choose a venue that emulates what sort of atmosphere you’re going for with your rehearsal dinner. A lot of the tiny details also make huge impact on the overall atmosphere, so be sure to consider those as well when planning your dinner. Do what you think is most convenient and fun for your guests, and it will be a blast. rehearsal dinner

Merriment Events

Q: What sort of activities should be going on with the rehearsal dinner?

Nothing too crazy or elaborate should be going down at the rehearsal dinner (unless, of course, you want to). A lot of rehearsal dinner activities include little games like the Shoe Game or Newlyweds (I LOVE THIS GAME). Take the opportunity to use the rehearsal dinner as a time to give your thanks to all of the guests for their help and unwavering support. Family members and some members of the wedding party may make use of the time to make a toast to the couple, but toasts should be short, succinct, and heartfelt. Additionally, gifts can be exchanged at this time (bridal party, groomsmen, parents, etc.) and a lot of tears might be shed.

rehearsal dinner

via Pinterest

Q: What should I wear to the rehearsal dinner?

Great question — if the rehearsal dinner is taking place after the actual rehearsal, feel free to change into something else that’s more casual but also shows the celebratory spirit! The formality of your attire will depend on the formality of the dinner, so play it by ear. A good rule of thumb is to ask what kind of dinner it will be (several-course meal, BBQ, food trucks, sit-down meal) and adjust accordingly.

For the bride, a popular choice for a rehearsal dinner outfit is the little white dress. Keeping to traditional wedding dress code, this means other girls should not wear white, but look to other options. Thankfully, it’s a little easier to find shorter dresses in a variety of colors than long gowns. Wear something akin to cocktail attire for most rehearsal dinners (unless otherwise stated that you will definitely be chugging down some beer and eating messy finger foods), and you should be good to go.

For the groom and groomsmen, it’s a little bit more tenuous. For formal dinners, stay in your suits — you can add a personal detail such as cufflinks or a really spiffy tie. For semi-formal dinners, a pressed shirt, slacks, and dress shoes will suffice (it’s up to you whether or not you want a tie, but I personally like the idea of a tie. Keeps things a little neater). For everything less formal, I would still err on the side of formal, which means a nice collared shirt (rolled-up sleeves optional) or polo paired with khakis or a pair of really good-looking jeans (no holes). Try to stay away from running shoes and flip-flops if possible.

Q: Do I even need a rehearsal dinner?

The rehearsal dinner is quite a well-embedded wedding tradition, but there is no pressure to put one on if you feel that your budget can’t really take the strain. If you have other doubts about a rehearsal dinner, I would really urge you to consider your options before opting out of the rehearsal dinner completely. This might be the only time to really bring both the bride’s and groom’s family together, and these opportunities for familial kinship don’t come very often.


Hopefully that was a comprehensive overview of what a rehearsal dinner entails. Honestly, a rehearsal dinner sounds like boat loads of fun — good food, drinks, and company! What more can you possibly ask for? (Besides Michael Fassbender  being your second hunk-of-a-hubby, of course)

And now… here’s some rehearsal dinners for every type of couple!

rehearsal dinner

Jose Villa Photography

rehearsal dinner

Janae Shields

rehearsal dinner

Alison Conklin Photography

rehearsal dinner

via Pinterest

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Millie Holloman Photography

rehearsal dinner

Yassssss, muffins!!! | Jacqueline Campbell Weddings

rehearsal dinner

Dreamlove Wedding Photography

After looking through all these pictures… is it weird that I feel more excited about a rehearsal dinner than the actual wedding itself? Hmmmmmmmm… -rubs chin in pensive thought-

Well brides & grooms, what do you think? What kind of rockin’ rehearsal dinner are you planning to throw?